Gig Review: @KateTempest at The Plug, Sheffield, 3rd December 2016

Photos: Fi Stimpson

Words: Richard Mackman & Fi Stimpson

Kate Tempest would make a great resistance leader. Her charisma and intellectual persona are beyond captivating and convincing. There is almost an obsessive and rabid bond with the audience tonight – everybody is paying attention. Simply, what we get tonight is the entirety of the new album “Let Them Eat Chaos”. In a nutshell, it’s a damning indictment of the state of the world right now. I can almost smell revolution in the air with each inhalation of breath.

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An interesting crowd, this – older Corbyn types mixed in with politically aware student bods. Intelligent dance music and rap aficionados, pockets of crust punks and squatty folk. Kate attracts the cynical, the thinkers, those that do not believe the news on their TV screens, those of us that are mightily dissatisfied with the human condition.

This gig pans out like a play; the songs are the acts and scenes. Tempest’s poetic imagery is all-consuming – her conjuring up of characters, settings and situations is almost 3 dimensional. You can’t take your eyes off her – at points, the sensory overload is profound. Lyrically, there is an abundance to ponder.

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The way she asserts herself is almost frightening to behold at times. Her sense of injustice and outrage expressed so compellingly febrile. This woman is a tormented poet of our time. I am acutely aware that I am witnessing something sacrosanct. For someone who is short in stature and, dare I say it, ordinary looking, Kate Tempest is a formidable maelstrom.

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I played the album in its entirety in the car on the way home, and recalled almost all of it from the show. Bear in mind I had never heard those songs before tonight…

To experience this again is mandatory. Watch this space.

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Gig Review: Dr Feelgood at Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 1st December 2016

Photos: Fi Stimpson

Words: Richard Mackman and Fi Stimpson

Dr Feelgood are an enigma of a band. The fact that they feature no original member and all current players are third generation is unusual to say the least. However, what you have on offer is a ferociously tight and joyfully authentic Rhythm and Blues outfit that does credit and is a worthy testimony to the two early classic line-ups.

Front man Robert Kane is a striking, dapper fella, almost like an action man, all starey eyed and jutting jaw. He’s not Lee Brilleaux, but who is, eh? His soft but assertive Sunderland accent is endearing yet commanding. He is also a mean harp player. Considering he has such a big set of shoes to fill, Kane performs with confidence and ease.

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Guitarist Steve Walwyn is quite possibly the most consistent and focussed guitar player I have witnessed in quite some time. He plucks a rich, ripe tone from his Telecasters and with traditional player dynamics and staggering slide skills, he is enthralling to watch. He also comes across as being an incredibly genial gent.

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Stand-out numbers in the set were “Back in the Night”, “If My Baby Quit Me”, “She Does It Right” and “Rolling and Tumbling” – Walwyn’s opportunity to really shine both vocally and with the bottleneck.

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Phil Mitchell governs stage left wielding probably the most road-worn p bass I’ve ever seen, like some kind of rock n’ roll John Pertwee, locking in effortlessly with drummer Kevin Morris.

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The crowd this evening – the Feelgood Family – are into this show 100% with a loyalty and familiarity for the material. The intimate and cosy setting of Stamford’s Voodoo Lounge is perfect.

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This is only the third time I’ve seen them in recent years, but Feelgoods are always a band I’d be very keen to see again. Long may they continue.

Gig Review: @Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Pixies, 02 Academy Brixton, Monday 28th November 2016

Written by Zoe Spencer

It’s been 11 years since I last saw Pixies, at the Aircraft-Hanger-esqe Alexandra Palace. It was the fulfilment of a childhood dream. We camped out for hours in the empty hall to be sure of a front row spot. My other half had never really heard of Pixies but he still describes that night as one of the best live gigs he has ever seen. I was the stereotypical fan girl, totally smitten from first note – utterly blown away – it was a real high point of my gig going career. So, to say my expectations were high would be a gigantic (get it?) understatement.

Upon arriving at the 02 Academy I was treated to a very thorough frisk (I’m not sure the third bottom squeeze was entirely necessary…) and a bag search – sadly there was nothing more exciting than a notepad and pen (much to my friend’s amusement at how “old school” I am). Looking around at my fellow concert goers, I was hit with a sense of my own impending middle age; where were the Grungers? The Punks? Where were the bloody teenagers? I was awash in a sea of hipsters and ridiculous moustaches. My sense of displacement was further deepened by catching sight of the tea towels on the Pixies merchandise stand… what every middle-aged rocker needs….

Taking my place in the 5000-strong throng, a shadowy Pixies took to the stage, and without so much as a “hello Brixton” pre-amble, they are straight into the good stuff with the anthemic sing-a-long, “Where is My Mind?” The band is on form this evening, Black Francis’ vocals are as strange and wonderful as ever as they motor from one classic to the next – the set is relentless and spans all seven albums with even a couple of b-sides and covers of Neil Young’s “Winterlong” and Scottish veterans The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On” (featured on Pixies Trompe Le Monde Album) getting a look in.

The set sways from one decade to another, in a collection of songs spanning nearly 30 years. And yet, there are no songs that jar, of course the “Doolittle” and “Surfer Rosa” tracks are the ones that have the crowd singing along – the irresistible nod at a pop love song “Here comes your Man” is a particular highlight for me, and “Havalina” was beautiful. But newbies like “Tenement Song” from “Head Carrier” stand strong amongst the classics.

If I’m being completely honest there were times when the sound guys could have been working harder – bass and vocals were feeding back at several points in the first hour but Pixies have always had a rawness that can take a bit of buzz. I would have been disappointed to have left without a little bit of a headache!

The set motors on, song after song (although of course most Pixies songs come in short bursts) with not a peep in between – the stage is dark and back lit, full of smoke and the lack of banter adds to the surrealness they do so well… I was happy to see that guitarist Joey Santiago was completing the line-up after his recent stay in rehab with signature unpolished surfy tones. However, the real revelation for me was the wonderful Paz Lenchantin – having seen the original line up featuring Kim Deal, bringing a splash of colour to the monochrome stage with a large floppy red flower attached to the headstock of her bass. After so much time I wonder if the comparisons to Kim Deal become galling (Gigantic was a notable exception to the set – Monkey’s Gone to Heaven also sadly absent) however Paz stood her very leggy ground. The bass was deliciously punky and growly and her vocals strong – in that quirky way Pixies do so well.

When this 2-hour marathon draws to its tumultuous conclusion with a fantastic last run of “Hey”, “Gouge Away”, the magnificent “Debaser” and finally the throat wrenching “Tame”, the band take their bows in silence and leave the stage. Still not a word.

They return to the stage for their encore and the whole room is flooded with smoke – seriously it was like walking into a cloud – Pixies humour perhaps, because Paz then delivers a haunting version of “Into the White” before they disappear in the smoke screen like ghosts in the night.

In short as loud and weird and wonderful as you would come to expect although, next time guys, maybe say “hey” – after all we’ve been “trying to meet you”.

Set list;

Where is my mind?

Nimrod’s Son

Break my body

Brick is red

Winterlong (Neil Young)

Blown Away

Mr. Grieves

La La Love You

Ana

All the Saints

Here Comes your Man

Motorway to Roswell

Magdalena 318

Tenement Song

Classic Masher

Head on (The Jesus and Mary Chain)

U-Mass

I’ve Been Tired

Velouria

Havalina

Snakes

Caribou

Rock Music

Baal’s Back

Isla de Enchanta

Oona

Planet of Sound

All I Think About Now

Hey

Gouge Away

Debaser

Tame

Into the White

Gig Review: Sleaford Mods, Rock City, 3rd November 2016 @SleafordMods @Rock_City_Notts

Words: Richard Mackman

Photos: Fi Stimpson

An edgy sense of anticipation was apparent as I entered Rock City on 3rd November 2016. The venue was filling up with a veritable horde of punters. It’s the kind of gig where it’s alright to be weird, because everyone’s a bit fucking weird here.

The electronic punk duo take the stage to a victorious acclamation from the closely packed crowd. I feel that this is an act coming into their prime now, who are clearly relishing their time in the spotlight as a venerated phenomenon.

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What we get tonight is a much more oblique set than a year ago –  less of the obvious and more of the unusual, including 3 brand new ditties replete with suitably pithy sarcastic expletives and which were more than enough to have me eagerly anticipating their next release.

Williamson’s antics this evening (he’s got some brand-new moves) as he hustles himself around the stage conjure an image of a baboon with Tourette’s.

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The geezer operating the devil’s karaoke, Andrew Fearn, lurks in the background like a minacious persona, Beck’s bottle tightly in fist, aiding and abetting.

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Sleaford Mods are almost impossible to pigeonhole. A band that divide opinion, just like fucking Marmite. We witness a caustic blend of Crass-age Punk copulating with Cooper Clarke on Meth and Lydon trussed up in the boot of your car with Cirrhosis itch.

Jason Williamson is for real. In his words… “What you’ve got to remember, when you leave here tonight, is that you didn’t come here to see Sleaford Mods – we came here to see you”.

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Gig Review: Teleman, The Junction, Cambridge, 26th October 2016 @Telemanmusic @moshimoshimusic @LunacreHQ @CambJunction

Last time I saw Teleman, it was at the Portland Arms in Cambridge. We were so close to the band, it was like a gig in my own front room. Since then, I’ve been hankering after seeing them again so jumped at the chance when they announced their gig at The Junction. This time, Music vs the World Junior joined me because she was mightily disgruntled at missing out last time…! I was more than happy to take her along – not many 13 year olds have such good taste in music!

Support act Lunacre set the tone for the evening with their unique, experimental electronic style. Deftly knocking out the tunes with incredible attention to detail, they are so focussed that they almost seem to forget the audience is there!

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They’ve only been doing their thing for a year, but these guys have a propitious future ahead of them if they carry on like this – I highly recommend seeing them before they make it so big that you can’t get close enough!

Anyway, I digress. Teleman take to a bigger stage and a considerably larger audience like fish to water, their stagecraft professionalism rising to the occasion. The bigger PA sound system and production, as well as some monumental lighting and astounding smoke effects enhance and add dimension to their songs.

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There was a mixed bag of punters – old, young kids, drop outs, students and weirdos, all of whom were absolutely enthralled whilst listening to the band. I did note that despite the ages of individuals, this was a very serious crowd and one that is difficult to pigeonhole.

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Once again the thing that struck me was the degree of “control” and subtlety that these guys have with their music, never appearing to lose their steadiness or at times hypnotic preciseness that they have with their songs. Seasoned and steady, they have clearly been doing this very well with much skilful accomplishment for quite some time (I refer you specifically to previous guise of some of the band, Pete and the Pirates).

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MVTW Junior was suitably impressed with the whole evening, never taking her eyes off the band and singing along with all her heart. Anyone who can make such an impact on that particular teenager is onto something! It was also her first experience of being starstruck whilst meeting a band – she was practically bouncing out of there afterwards, and declared that they are “very lovely people”!

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I heard not ONE error in their performance, nothing seemed out of place, or if it was they could conceal and distract. Anthemic and majestic, the new material shines brightly. If anything, the lack of intimacy and the larger expanse of space between band members in this venue enhances their pristine and almost at times mathematical approach they take with their music.

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I already can’t wait until the next time…!

Gig Review: The Divine Comedy at The Junction, Cambridge, 20th October 2016 @divinecomedyhq @lisaoneillmusic @cambjunction

At 5pm on a dreary Thursday evening, I received a message telling me that I had been added to the guest list with a photo pass for The Divine Comedy that very evening. A few panicked moments of organising childcare ensued, and I was then on the road to Cambridge to photograph one of my favourite ever bands! My car was filled with a frisson of excitement for the next hour and 15 minutes.

On arrival, The Junction was already pretty full, and it was very apparent that every person there felt exactly as I did.

Support act Lisa O’Neill was the perfect opener to The Divine Comedy.

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With her far-fetched tales (including one where she ended up making Irish stew for Elvis Presley), and her voice that made me imagine she only consumes the most luxurious chocolate and nothing else, she impressed, captivated and tickled the fancy of her audience.

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She was utterly delightful, and nicely set the tone for what was to come.

Setlist:

The Galway Shawl

Nasty

Elvis, I Give You Irish Stew

Pothole in the Sky

Planets

Sparkle

The time soon arrived for Neil Hannon and his band of quirky men to grace the stage. Hannon’s droll wit was immediately evident, just as I had hoped.

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I have always listened to The Divine Comedy’s intricate, classy tunes with fondness. To witness them live was beyond what I could have expected. Their fresh, lively compositions speaking of romance, laced with comedy and regaling the history of 18th century Russia both entertain and charm the audience in equal measure.

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Hannon himself is the ever-present member of the band when others have come and gone. He is the design behind the output. He may be small of stature, but he is superhuman in personality. Without his intelligent, odd, gentlemanly, mischievous, sincere, kooky ways, there would be no such music in the world.

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That evening, I was enchanted, bedazzled and fascinated, and left wanting more… there is no better sign of a great gig than that!

Setlist:

Down in the Street Below

Assume the Perpendicular

Bad Ambassador

Bang Goes the Knighthood

The Complete Banker

Generation Sex

Our Mutual Friend

Alfie (Cilla Black cover)

The Certainty of Chance

Sweden

How Can You Leave Me on My Own

To the Rescue

Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piedmont

The Frog Princess

A Lady of a Certain Age

Catherine the Great

Funny Peculiar (with Lisa O’Neill)

At the Indie Disco

Something for the Weekend

Becoming More Like Alfie

I Like

National Express

Encore:

Absent Friends

Songs of Love

Tonight We Fly

Gig Review: Mark Morriss at Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, 22nd October 2016 @TheQuill

Words by Mitch Spearing

Photos by Fi Stimpson Photography

For quite a few months now I’ve been threatening to turn up at a gig that Fi was attending. When she told me that she had played a part in arranging to get Mark Morriss to play at a venue in her local town, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Had I known I’d be asked to review it, I might have paid more attention to the song order and content both artists played, rather than simply turning up and enjoying what turned out to be a very pleasant evening.

Let’s start with the venue. The Voodoo Lounge, downstairs at Mama Liz’s in Stamford…  I had only been to Stamford once before on a dreary Sunday afternoon about 25 or so years ago where I recall visiting an antiques fair. Someone I spoke to on Saturday evening told me that Stamford itself hadn’t changed much!

The Voodoo Lounge is a cellar bar which to me was reminiscent of downstairs at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith, if anyone has ever been, or remembers it…  that was certainly somewhere that I spent many a drunken Saturday night before dashing to get the last train home. But anyway, I digress. The staff at the venue were friendly and bar prices seemed reasonable for the couple of drinks I had.

The first act up for the evening was a fella called Richard Gombault.  I was told that he was local and that in a previous life he had been in a band called Midget. His set was entertaining with a little bit of banter with the crowd.

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He did make mention of being in Midget, and played a song which he said was a hit of theirs in Japan, which he’d had to extend for the purposes of a solo play. He impressed me enough to enquire with Fi as to who he was, so that I could try and find out if he any music available on that well-known fruit based online store.

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Setlist:

Queue-Jumping

The Reflection Stared

Twice as Shy

Some Stars Never Fade

Wendyhouse

God Only Knows (very good beach boys cover)

Shackles

All Fall Down

Optimism

Richard was well received and seemed comfortable playing in front of this type of audience.

We didn’t have to wait long before Mark took to the stage. I’m sure that most of you will know Mark as the lead singer of The Bluetones, and possibly like me, know very little of his solo work.

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If you attended hoping for a succession of the better known Bluetones songs, you would be disappointed.  If you went with an open mind, then in my opinion, you would have left feeling happy with what you had seen and looking forward to the next time you might get to see Mark play.

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I had seen Mark play with the Bluetones a couple of times before and knew that he was an excellent front man.  What I didn’t know was how good he was with his own ability to play guitar, and keep the audience amused with a witty dialogue throughout the whole show.

As the evening went on, it was obvious that Mark was enjoying himself, but I did find myself wondering where he felt more at home… here, on a small stage playing to a crowd of probably no more than 100… Or the previous Saturday evening, playing in front of a few thousand when The Bluetones were a support act for The Happy Mondays at the Derby Arena.

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One little tip, should you decide to go and see Mark play, is that if you buy him a drink (I believe Jack Daniels and coke is his tipple of choice…) you might even get to request a song.  We got treated to half a version of “Benny and the Jets” after a young lady in the crowd handed him a drink.

Highlights for me were half a version of “Slight Return” done in a reggae styley and a song that I think was called “Travelodge Breakfast in a Bag” which, although short on lyrics, was what Mark said it was really like for a solo artist living life on the road.

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Summing up, Mark is very good value and provides an enjoyable evening’s entertainment… Whether he uses the same stories every night, or whether he has a locker full of tales that he can draw on depending on the time /venue /crowd, I don’t know. I guess I’ll get to find that out the next time I see him.  The obligatory encore was taken as a request from the crowd though I suspect it was going to be played anyway, once it had been called out.

Setlist:

Digging a Hole

It’s Hard to be Good All the Time

Bluetonic

This is the Lie (and That’s the Truth)

Marblehead Johnson

Duchess

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Pink Bullets

Unwanted Friend

Cut Some Rug

(encore)

Consuela

Sleazy Bed Track

Gig Review: @WilkoJohnson at @CambridgeCornEx , 14th October 2016

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There’s very little I can say about a Wilko Johnson gig that hasn’t already been said in the majority of reviews. We all know he’s returned from the brink, against all the odds, and is still going strong. We all know what an incredible musician and songwriter he is, both with Dr Feelgood and as a solo artist. We all know that his loyal band members Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe have been chosen because they are faultless, have impressive stage presence and are exciting to listen to. I don’t really need to tell you any of that though, do I.

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Sometimes, though, even knowing all of the details like those above can’t prepare you for attending a gig which culminates in everything being resolved in your mind, where you feel perfectly relaxed to be yourself and like you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

First off, he selected a wonderful support act in the shape of Aaron Keylock, a young Blues Prog Rock guitarist and singer with his trusty bassist and drummer by his side.

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I was blown away by this guy – he is seriously worth checking out. Here’s his new single “Against the Grain”:

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Wilko with his wild duck walk, wild eyes and even wilder guitar playing, Norman’s bass solos that make you shiver both inside and out and Howe’s bombastic, full-bodied beat tightly melded together to form a musical force that got people rising from their seats to move every muscle, pore and follicle. A good old boogie-woogie to classic blues and rock n’ roll, and all is right with the world.

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Video by Alien Outback on YouTube:

Until next time, “Bye Bye…”!

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Gig Review: Jean Michel Jarre, Birmingham, 8th October 2016 @jeanmicheljarre @Bcardarena

I had been waiting for that night since I was 10 years old. That was the last time I saw Jean Michel Jarre live, at one of his two Destination Docklands gigs in London on 8th October 1988. Exactly 28 years later to the very day, I was getting to see him again, this time at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.

At last, the time came, and commencing with “The Heart of Noise”, the sound of electronica expanded to fill every square millimetre of that arena.

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My 13-year-old daughter was immediately transfixed by the light themes, and was suitably impressed with both the creative, scientific patterns produced, and the stories told with lights and lasers. Considering she’s not an easy girl to please, I breathed a sigh of relief that she was to enjoy this gig as much as I would!

JMJ told us quite early on that he was glad to be starting his tour in the UK – he went on to say that this is his second home, with or without Brexit. He then performed his collaboration with Edward Snowden from 2015, entitled “Exit”. I love the haphazard drum beat in this tune, and of course what Snowden says mid-track… “What may not have value to you today may have value to an entire population, an entire people, an entire way of life tomorrow, and if you don’t stand up for it I will.”

Looking around me, there was a constant joint nodding of heads and dancing in seats going on. Just one guy in row 11 was losing his inhibitions to the music from the start. I like that guy.

It wasn’t long, though, before JMJ invited us to get up, dance and enjoy ourselves. He also requested that security relax for once… that was sadly largely ignored. However, there was suddenly a festival atmosphere – people flocked to the floor instead of staying in their seats, and it was an absolute joy to be part of that.

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Even now, it feels like he is ahead of his time, but don’t forget that he was doing this 40 years ago and it sounded equally as good then, if not better, as no-one had approached music in quite the same way before.

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Jean Michel Jarre’s music is nothing short of euphoric. Many people consider electronica tunes to all be the same, but he is no one trick pony – he continues to explore style and genre with flair and passion, and the result is an infectious gathering of unforgettable tunes.

Another recent collaboration was with Pet Shop Boys and is entitled “Brick England”, which almost conceals its poetic lyrics under the music. A stunning track, and such a pleasure to hear it live.

Of course, old favourites weren’t forgotten, and to the entire crowd’s delight, JMJ performed “Oxygѐne” 2, 4 & 8 and “Équinoxe” 4 & 7. He then finished off by treating us to a wonderful surprise – new track “Oxygѐne 17”! This is to be on the upcoming album which will be released in December to mark 40 years since “Oxygѐne” was released.

Jean Michel Jarre finished off the evening with “Stardust”, which he produced with Armin van Buuren in 2015. This is a superb collaboration and proves that classic electronica can be melded with the more modern. The perfect end to a dreamy, magical evening.

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